It is one of the most common questions facing parents today: When should you give your child their first mobile phone?
Child psychologists say that one of the most frequently asked questions they get from parents is – “When should I give my child their first mobile phone?”
Now would be a great time to take note of the growing psychological costs of our modern-day fixation with smartphones and the impact it may be having on the next generation.
According to Ofcom, 11% of eight-year-olds owned a smartphone in 2015; surprisingly, that number jumped to 19% in 2019.
In addition, 25% of children aged 6 and under already have their first smartphones, presenting quite an interesting picture, with nearly 50% of these kids spending up to 21 hours per week or 3 hours a day on their smartphones.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, stated that he banned smartphones until his children were in their teens or at age 14.
“We don’t have cell phones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cell phones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier,” Gates told the Mirror.
Despite several ways to limit the functionality of kids’ devices and set rules when it comes to “good” usage, parents still need to consider whether their kids are ready or mature enough to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.
Together, we can carefully consider all the options by taking a quick look at the pros and cons as well as some tips to ensure your child’s experience with their first device is a healthy one.
Pros of Smartphone Use
We can make the case that smartphones may represent powerful communication, education and even safety tools for children if they are used accordingly.
Perhaps the biggest perk is that they can serve parents as an affordable and potentially life-saving device if their child is in an emergency. They can keep track of their location and if their child feels they may be in danger, their phone could be a lifeline.
Smartphones also offer educational opportunities for kids that didn’t exist before. There are a plethora of applications that allow parents to take an individualistic approach to learning that is fun, entertaining and extremely beneficial to their child’s development.
Yes, smartphones can be advantageous, but you don’t have to look far before discovering warnings about young children and screen time. Parents may want to consider whether their child can handle the responsibility of their first phone.
Cons of Smartphone Use
Psychologists warn that cell phone usage can put a child’s mental health at risk. National surveys also show that kids are more anxious than ever before, with young children suffering from serious challenges as the result of more distractions and interruptions.
Ofcom studies found that kids spend so much time engaged with their devices that it’s interfering with the quality of their sleep. But there’s also a physiological reason why smartphones should stay out of the bedroom after “lights-out”.
The blue light emitted by electronic screens tricks kids’ brains into thinking it’s still daytime. They don’t produce enough melatonin to fall asleep and get the quality of rest their body requires.
Lastly, as we know, having a smartphone comes with certain dangers such as cyberbullying or exposing children to content that isn’t age appropriate. If not carefully monitored, these things may have severe consequences on a child’s development.
4 Steps to Help Children Ready for Their First Smartphone
Giving your child their first phone is not a decision to be taken lightly. Parents will have to use their own discernment. However, there are some steps you can take to help prepare your children for their first device.
Have a conversation
Explain to your children the responsibility that comes with their phone. Use this as an opportunity to clearly lay out the boundaries of how it is to be used as well as a time to educate them on cyberbullying.
Teach about digital citizen
Having a phone will lead your children to learn the internet too. Thus, teach them how to be a good digital citizen because whatever they do online, such as post or comment, will stay there forever. In addition, teach them to always keep their privacy and avoid oversharing. Lastly, being a good digital citizen requires them to be able to filter the information they get in order to avoid fake news or hoaxes.
As we know, smartphones can be quite addictive. By limiting the use of their device to specific times or certain tasks, you can closely monitor their usage and ensure balance in your child’s lifestyle.
Parental Control Settings
Use all of the options available to you to ensure your child’s device is serving as a tool for positive impact. Parental control settings allow you to block access to certain websites and restrict content that isn’t appropriate for their eyes.
By using this knowledge and implementing these tips, both you and your child can be prepared and ensure they get the most out of their first smartphone!
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